Category: Police-Public Safety

Oakland May Name Road in Honor of Oscar Grant

Community leaders join together to endorse naming road next to the Fruitvale BART station as “Oscar Grant Way.” Shown (L to R) are: BART Board President Bevan Dufty, BART Director Lateefah Simon, Oscar Grant’s aunt Bernice Johnson, Council President Rebecca Kaplan, Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson and Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

 

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Coun­cil’s Life Enrichment Com­mittee passed a resolution this week to name the un­named road adjacent to the West side of the Fruitvale BART Station between 33rd to 35th Avenues as “Oscar Grant Way.”

The resolution was in­troduced last year by Coun­cilmember Desley Brooks in one of her last official acts and co-authored by Council President Rebecca Kaplan. At the Tuesday meeting, Councilmembers Loren Taylor and Lynette McElhaney were added as co-sponsors of the resolu­tion, which will be heard at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

It was determined the street was on BART prop­erty, and, BART Board Presi­dent Bevan Dufty and BART Director Lateefah Simon spoke at the committee meeting in fa­vor of the resolution.

“I want to thank Desley Brooks for putting in an effort to put this in today,” said Oscar Grant’s relative, Ceogus “Un­cle Bobby” Cephus Johnson.

“For 10 years I have been saying it is because of the com­munity and political figures and clergy and activists in the streets that prayed with and for us and speaking on behalf of us for Oscar’s name to never be forgotten. Thank you. We will do what we’ve got to do to name this street,” he said.

Said Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson, “I would first like to thank God and to the BART Directors for carrying this forward. I am so grateful today that you all see that Os­car’s life lost was not in vain.”

“His death has sparked a movement. One of the atone­ments is for BART to name the street after my son, Oscar Grant. Thank you for seeing this injustice and not ignoring it but acting,” she said.

Council President Kaplan said, “We are here…to honor a life that was tragically cut short at the Fruitvale BART station. The activism of the family and the community sparked an international move­ment. We need to honor the life of Oscar Grant, the activism his death has sparked, and we need to continue to fight for a world where Black men and boys are not targets of these types of killings.”

Said BART Board President Dufty: “I want to thank Oscar’s mother for working with me. I want to apologize to the com­munity, and to take account­ability for the delays that have occurred in naming this road. I am 100 percent in support and am committed to working with my colleague Lateefah Simon to correct this at the upcoming BART Board meeting on Feb. 14.”

In her remarks, Simon said, “We are 10 years too late. I apologize to the community. The BART Board will move mountains to name this street after Oscar Grant. We will or­ganize like Oscar’s mother has organized internationally. We will do this. We have no choice.”

Oscar Grant III was a 22-year-old African-American man who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009 by BART Po­lice Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland.

Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Two officers, including Mehserle, forced the unarmed Grant to lie face down on the platform.

Mehserle drew his pistol and shot Grant in the back. Grant was rushed to Highland Hospi­tal in Oakland and pronounced dead later that day.

The events were captured on multiple official and pri­vate digital video and private­ly-owned cell phone cameras and went viral. Huge protests against police actions took place in the following days.

Published January 18, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Displaced Residents Seek Compensation After City Evicts Them, Tows Their RVs

Dayton Andrews, Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist speak about the mass towing at a press conference for the United Front Against Displacement outside the County of Alameda Administrative Building at noon on Dec. 20.

By Zack Haber

At 8 a.m., Oct. 23, Auto Plus Towing & Auto Body and the Oakland Police De­partment collaborated to tow over 15 vehicles near 20th and Willow streets in West Oakland.

The vehicles were mostly homes to long-term Oakland residents who could no lon­ger afford to pay rent.

Emma Chum, an immi­grant from Guatemala who has lived in Oakland for 16 years, says that as police of­ficers towed her RV, “They were laughing like it was funny.”

Chum’s RV had a kitch­en, bed, solar power and a closet. She now lives in a tent and has trouble sleep­ing. Though she works six days a week at a beauty sup­ply store, she hasn’t found a room in Oakland she can af­ford to rent.

Chum’s missing papers relating to citizenship and employment have served as an additional roadblock to her securing indoor housing. Since these papers were in her vehicle when it got towed, she lost them.

Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist, two Vietnam veterans who have lived in Oakland for decades, insist that the Police Department worked strategically to seize their vehicles and intimidate them. Both claim that after police towed their vehicles, officers tracked them down later in the day and told them to “get out of Oakland.”

Though police had given residents at 20th and Willow streets a three-day eviction notice, Rosenquist claims that in the past police would allow vehicular residents time to move during the day of an eviction. This time, there was no leniency. If a vehicle couldn’t be moved immediately, it was towed.

“It was heart-wrenching. They were acting like we were second-class people,” said Rosenquist.

Thompson thinks he was targeted. “They know my truck and what I’ve done in the past so they snagged mine first,” he said. Though his truck ran, it was past registration and he arrived a few minutes too late to move it. It was towed.

In the past, Thompson had used his truck to tow displaced people’s ve­hicles to new locations so that they could avoid hav­ing them seized by towing companies. He had planned to help people on the morn­ing of Oct. 23, but with his truck gone, his neighbors who couldn’t immediately start their vehicles were left helpless.

Thompson and Rosen­quist feel the City of Oakland has treated them unjustly and have connected with hous­ing activists like Dayton Andrews to form the United Front Against Displacement (UFAD).

UFAD meets at Raimondi Park every Friday at 4:30 p.m. and works to stop evic­tions, house all Bay Area res­idents, and hold city agen­cies financially accountable to the people they displace.

In the days immediately following Oct. 23, Thomp­son, Rosenquist, Andrews and other UFAD members attempted to talk with the city government about the mass towing and were di­rected to Michael Hunt, an aide to Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Hunt told them the police shouldn’t have towed their vehicles and that the city would help to retrieve them.

But the former 20th and Willow streets residents claim the city hasn’t helped as police have informed them that their vehicles would not be returned.

Hunt hasn’t responded to an Oakland Post email ask­ing him to comment.

The former residents agree with Andrews, who says “the City of Oakland owes people compensation for their lost property, their lost vehicles and ultimately should be held accountable for not pro­ducing spaces in Oakland for people to live in.”

Published January 2, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Council Rushes to Approve Five-Year Police Agreement

APTP activist James Burch tells City Council to stop putting the Oakland Police Officers Association’s needs above those of the community at Tuesday’s meeting. Photo by Zack Haber.

Zack Haber

 At a meeting that lasted over eight hours, continuing from Tuesday evening until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, community members and activists from the Anti Police-Terror Project, the Coalition for Police Accountability, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the First Congregational Church of Oakland criticized a proposed new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Officers Association.

The new MOU grants officers a 12.5 percent salary increase spread over five years.

All council members voted in favor of the MOU except Rebecca Kaplan, who voted no. Noel Gallo abstained, and Desley Brooks was absent.

James Burch, an activist with the Anti Police-Terror Project, wanted the council to delay the vote to seek input from the community.

“In crafting a new MOU, the City Council is more concerned with their relationship with the Oakland Police Officers Association than they are with the wants and needs of the people of Oakland,” he said.

Burch said the timing of the vote shows the council does not respect the will of Oakland residents. The current OPOA agreement does not expire for over six months, leaving plenty of time to seek the views of the police commission and other city residents.

By settling the agreement early, the council and the administration locked up wages and rules governing the police before recently elected City Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao take office.

“Nikki Fortunato Bas was voted in over Abel Gullén because Gullén was being held accountable for his failure to work with community over the last several years,” Burch said. “Bas has promised to work with community, and I believe her.” But Oakland’s newly elected council members will not have a say in Oakland’s MOU with its police union.

Rashidah Grinage, a member of the Coalition for Police Accountability, was also concerned with the rush to vote on the agreement. “The whole thing was a stealth attack,” Grinage said. “We had no advance knowledge that this was on the agenda, so we had no time to organize around it.”

Grinage said parts of the MOU were overlooked like the overtime budget, how officers are promoted and oversight on police discipline is handled. She said the newly elected Council members might have wanted to work with Oakland residents to change the language in the MOU before voting on it.

Published December 15 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

City Awards Police 12.5 Percent Raise, Bypassing Public Input

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council, bypassing opportunities for public input, rushed this week to approve a Schaaf administration agreement with the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) that gives officers a 12.5 percent raise over the next five years and locks in controversial provisions that reform advocates say are hampering efforts to strengthen police accountability.

The only council member to vote against the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with OPOA was Rebecca Kaplan. Councilmember Desley Brooks did not attend the Tuesday night meeting.

The second and final vote on the approval of the MOU was scheduled for the Dec. 11 City Council meeting.

The agreement has already been ratified by OPOA members.

A huge windfall for the city, the agreement drastically reduces medical benefits for police retirees, saving the city an estimated $123 million over the life of the contract as much as $350 million over 25 years, according to city officials.

The average 2.5 percent a year raise does not start until 2020 and is not likely to keep up with the rate of inflation.

The agreement perpetuates other provisions of the current MOU, include those that establish police disciplinary procedures and grants the OPOA the right to a fairly unlimited right to “meet and confer” over policy changes affecting public safety, which has held up reforms for as long as a year on several occasions.

As a result, new City Council members who will be seated in January will not have an opportunity to review the MOU’s provisions during their four-year terms.

“Nobody knew they were negotiating,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition, pointing out that the current MOU does not expire for another seven months and the firefighters are now in their second year of working without a contract.

The administration sent the agreement directly to the council, placing it on the consent calendar where it might receive minimal notice, bypassing public discussion at the Public Safety Committee and not even sending the proposal to the Rules and Legislation Committee for scheduling on a council agenda.

Nor was the Police Commission given an opportunity to express its opinion on the new MOU.

“This was definitely underhanded and intentional,” said Grinage. She noted the irony of giving the police a raise on the same day that an irate federal judge chastised the city and OPD for turning in reports that misrepresent the use of force and other requirements of the court-supervised Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA).

After 15 years, the city has not been able to fully comply with the NSA. In Tuesday’s court hearing, the judge added back to the noncompliant list three requirements that had formerly been listed as compliant.

“After all this time, they are going backwards,” said Grinage.

According to Grinage, members of the Coalition for Police Accountability met with Mayor Schaaf on Oct. 11, where the mayor said she was willing to discuss modifying the MOU, including a provision that says in disciplinary hearings an officer’s history of misbehavior can only be examined going back a maximum of five years.

However, Mayor Schaaf ignored what she said at that meeting when her administration sent the new MOU to the council. The representative of the City Attorney Barbara Parker’s office who attended Tuesday’s council meeting said the MOU was a labor agreement, and therefore the Police Commission has no right to express an opinion on it.

A local labor leader in the city told the Post why he thought the OPOA might be willing to settle for contract with only a modest raise and a huge cut in medical benefits.

“Everyone is expecting a recession in 2020.” He said. “Also making it a five-year deal means that they don’t have to deal with the incoming board where they think they won’t have a majority anymore.”

In addition, he said, the recent issues raised by the federal may have encouraged the OPOA to move quickly to settle the MOU, he said.

By the Oakland Post’s deadline, Mayor Schaaf did not respond to a request for comment.

Published November 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Schaaf’s Leadership of OPD Compels Support of Cat Brooks for Mayor

Cat Brooks (right) speaks at mayoral debate.

By Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Mayor Libby Schaaf owns the multiple failings of the Oakland Police Department and must be held accountable for them. Her lack of leadership on the reforms needed in the OPD is one of the primary reasons I support Cat Brooks for Oakland Mayor.

OPD is the City’s largest, most expensive, and arguably most important department. It spends almost half of the City’s General Fund, twice as much as the Fire Department.

The Oakland Police Department has been under the supervision of the federal court since January 22, 2003 because of the City’s failure to remedy systemic police misconduct, including abusing members of the public and racial profiling during traffic stops.

Mayor Schaaf promised during the 2014 campaign that she would meet the court’s demands and end federal oversight but has failed to so. In his September 2018 report, the Court Monitor concluded that OPD’s claims of decreased use of force were flawed because of the Department’s failure to accurately document incidents where officers used force.

On September 25, 2015, Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide, leading to the investigation of the sexual exploitation by Oakland and other law enforcement officers of a minor known as Celeste Guap (Jasmine Abuslin). OPD officials downplayed the sexual abuse claims and failed to investigate them properly.

Mayor Schaaf claims that she was not advised about the abuse investigation until March 22, 2016, but her statement can be questioned in light of the routine practice of OPD Internal Affairs officials to advise the City Administrator – and through her the mayor – of much less serious claims of police misconduct.

Months later the mayor finally professed outrage at the officers’ actions. Worse still, Schaaf’s chosen Chief, Anne Kirpatrick, has promoted some of the key administrators found to have covered up the sex abuse scandal.

Schaaf’s pattern of hiding OPD problems continues. Last weekend, after the San Francisco Chronicle exposed OPD’s practice of asking police officer applicants if they had been victims of sexual abuse, Schaaf again expressed surprised outrage and ordered that the practice end.

But complaints about the improper questioning of applicants were raised at City Council meetings months ago. Schaaf is either asleep at the wheel or indifferent to OPD problems until they become public

OPD’s one area of improvement has been the reduction of civilian killings since 2015. Citizen outrage, organized and led by Cat Brooks’ Anti Police Terror Project, deserves more credit for stopping trigger happy officers than any changes made by Mayor Schaaf.

Published October 31, 2018

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: “Oakland’s Democracy Is Strengthened by the Re-Election of Councilmember Desley Brooks,” Says Sandré Swanson

Desley Brooks and Sandré Swanson

I was born in the City of Oakland and have devoted my life to public service. I proudly represented the city of Oakland as our California State Assemblymember, Deputy Mayor of Oakland, the Chief of staff for Congresswoman Barbara Lee and a senior advisor to former Congressman Ron Dellums.

The Citizens of Oakland elect their Councilmembers by districts to ensure that their vote determines who will speak for and represent our community. I endorse and support Councilmember Desley Brooks because she has been a clear and effective voice for her district and the underrepresented in our city.

In my career, I have had the honor of meeting many dedicated public servants, and I have seen the challenge and negative effect of big money campaigns to oppose those dedicated public servants.

The people of Oakland’s District 6 should send a clear and strong message that Oakland’s democracy is strengthened by the re-election of Councilmember Desley Brooks, an independent and uncompromising voice for her district.

For the past 16 years, Councilmember Desley Brooks has had a successful record for Oakland. Desley Brooks’ mission to bring representation for historically underrepresented groups and Oakland’s diverse communities into City Hall is her record of service:

  • As rents have skyrocketed, she has passed renter’s protection ordinances and advocated for affordable housing for all.
  • As police accountability and violence has challenged safety in our community, she pushed for an independent police review commission.
  • She stood up for immigrant rights and strengthened Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance and opposed illegal ICE raids.
  • To fight joblessness and homelessness, she has set up job training programs that build bridges into the middle class for Oakland’s residents.
  • To make sure Oakland is a fair, equitable place for all, she led the fight to establish the Department of Race and Equity, ensuring that City policies don’t discriminate against minorities and women.

Desley Brooks has worked tirelessly for the communities she represents, and that’s why she has earned the support of her constituents, City workers, firefighters, religious leaders, and others.

It’s why she has earned my support, and it’s why she deserves yours.

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Are Schaaf Administration and City Attorney Undermining Independent Police Commission?

Mayor Schaaf, City Administrator Landreth and City Attorney Parker failed to respond to Oakland Post’s Questions

City Attorney Barbara Parker, Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth. Photo courtesy of Oakland Magazine.

By Ken Epstein

Back in July when the Oakland City Council passed the enabling ordinance for the Oakland Police Commission—over the strenuous objections of the City Administrator and the City Attorney—it appeared for a moment that the issue was finally settled: commission staff would be independent of the mayor and the mayor’s administration.

In other words, the City Council decided the commission’s staff would report to the commission, not the City Attorney or the City Administrator.

Rashidah Grinage

Based on the Measure LL charter amendment, the City Council passed the ordinance July 10 on a 6-1 vote (with only Annie Campbell Washington voting no). The City contests the council decision, saying its provisions conflict with the City Charter.

Councilmembers rejected the City Attorney’s and the City Administrator’s contention that the City Charter as whole requires commission staff to be controlled by them, not independent of the administration as intended by the charter amendment, which passed two years ago with 83 percent of the vote.

Now, however, the mayor’s administration and the City Attorney are prepared to ignore the City Council’s decision, based on their interpretation of the City Charter, according to members of the steering committee of the Coalition for Police Accountability who met last Thursday with Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The mayor is siding with the position of the City Attorney and the City Administration, even though the enabling ordinance was passed,” said Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“Regardless of her opinion, they have to implement what was passed. Period. They are saying they don’t have to abide by it. But their only recourse is to go to court to get an injunction. Otherwise, they have to implement it,” she said.

Henry Gage, a coalition member who attended the meeting with Mayor Schaaf, said “The Mayor seems unwilling to go against the City Administrator and the City Attorney.”

“You’d think once the City Council votes it would be over,” said Gage. “However, what I’ve learned is that if the executive branch doesn’t want to do something, the only real remedy is go to the courts.”

Chair of the Police Commision Thomas Smith, speaking at a City Council meeting, emphasized the need for the commission’s staff to be independent . “Having someone who is not a member of the City

Henry Gage

Attorney’s Office is very important,” he said.

Pamela Drake of the coalition said that what the public is seeing is the latest maneuver in a series of actions the mayor and the administration have taken to weaken the police commission. “They are doing everything they can to undermine an independent police commission,” she said.

Seeking an explanation of the administration’s decision, the Oakland Post contacted the City Attorney, the City Administrator and Mayor Schaaf. By Post deadline, none of them had responded. According to Grinage, the issue of independence concretely comes down to the employment contracts and jobs descriptions of three employees and consultants.

One issue has to do with contracts for the two attorneys who work for the police commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency (CRPA).

“These contracts predate the enabling ordinance, and they have to be rewritten in order to be in conformity with the ordinance. (At present), their supervisor is the City Attorney’s Office, and that is unacceptable,” said Grinage.

The other issue has to be with the position of the inspector general, who has yet to be hired and would work for the police commission.
“They are on the verge of putting out the job announcement for the inspector general,” said Grinage. The question is whether that person will report to the commission or the City Administrator, she said.

“I expect sooner or later that we will wind up in court over this,” said Grinage.

By ignoring the City Council decision, the mayor and the City Attorney are bypassing the requirements of the City Charter, according to Councilmember Desley Brooks.

“The City Charter is clear: The City Council sets the policy of the city, and it is the responsibility of the mayor to implement it,” she said.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who served as Mayor Jean Quan’s legal advisor, said that he has carefully studied Oakland’s City Charter.

“The main takeaway is that the City Attorney does not have an independent role in city government. The City Attorney is lawyer for the mayor, council and departments and has to follow the direction of her employers.”

When various agencies of government disagree, he said, the dispute must often be settled in court.

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks said, “Oaklanders voted for what they believed would be a community-controlled police commission. The City and the Mayor need to respect the voices of the people.”

“The mayor has tried to prevent the commission from having full autonomy from the beginning,” with her demand to have the authority to appoint three members of the commission, said Brooks.

Attorney Pamela Price, also a mayoral candidate, supports the need for the commission to be an independent body.

“The voters have shown their lack of confidence in the city administration’s willingness to hold the police department accountable,” said Price. “Their intent was clearly to create an independent structure, and that structure should be fully empowered to carry out its function.”

Published October 20, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post